The Biden administration informed the state of Arizona on Friday that it must stop withholding federal funding from schools with mask mandates, or the department may take back $160 million of coronavirus relief money the state designated for schools.
The Treasury Department issued a warning amid an ongoing feud between the Arizona Gov. and the Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's administration and the White House are concerned with Arizona's ban on mask requirements for schools. The Department of Education conducted a probe last year into Arizona and other states that banned masking in schools.
A letter from the Treasury Department says the conditions referenced above undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID - 19, by discouraging families and school districts from following this guidance. These school programs, as currently structured, are ineligible for use with SLFRF funds. CHICAGO RADICAL DEMAND COVID STIPENDS SLFRF refers to the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds that were authorized as part of the American Rescue Plan bill Biden signed earlier this year. The department said it may withhold future findings from the state.
Ducey created a $163 million grant fund for schools using federal dollars last summer. Schools that mandate masks for students are not eligible for the money. The governor must either remove that condition or redirect the funding, according to the Treasury Department.
The Treasury Department said it would be justified in taking back the money because the express purpose of the funds is to mitigate the fiscal effects of the COVID 19 public health emergency, including by supporting efforts to stop the spread of the virus. The Treasury Department cited CDC recommendations for universal masking for students and staff in schools to reduce COVID-19 spread.
Ducey hit back Friday against the Biden administration, arguing that the letter shows that the president's priorities don't match those of Americans.
First, a failed attempt to mandate vaccines. The governor said in a tweet that he was in a complete disregard for the public safety and humanitarian crisis at the southern border.
He said that he continued to try and rewrite rules around public dollars that will result in LESS funding for schools and kids, particularly in low-income communities. President Biden wants to keep focusing on masks when it comes to education. In Arizona, we are going to focus on math and getting kids caught up after a year of learning loss.